Begging Forgiveness

This entire section of Bhāgavatam (Canto 4, Chapters 1 through 7) is really about Vaiṣṇava-aparādhā / Sādhu-ninda / offenses to spiritualists. Here is the latest section, (4.6.1~8). I will offer some comments afterwards.


So all the gods, priests and guests were smashed and defeated, their limbs covered in wounds from the spears, tridents, blades, clubs, bats, and hammers of Rudra and his followers. Trembling in fear, they fled to Self-born Brahmā, paid their respects, and told him what had happened. But Flower-Born Brahmā already surmised everything they would tell him. This is why he – and Nārāyaṇa, soul of all – did not attend Dakṣa’s ceremony.

After hearing their tale, Great Brahmā replied, “You have destroyed yourselves and put your very lives in jeopardy by insulting a powerful being. You dishonored the Lord of Existence, Śiva, by excluding him from his portion of the ceremony’s opulence – yet you still hope to live and prosper?

“If he is angry, the worlds and their masters cannot exist. You have robbed him of his beloved wife, and pained his heart with foul insults, yet he is famous for being merciful towards those who fall at his feet. Your only hope is to seek his merciful forgiveness. So quickly apologize with complete and utter sincerity. Then you might also beg him to restore the lives that were lost at the ceremony.

“You have no recourse but to beg forgiveness. Any other course of action would be disastrous, for no one can even comprehend the extent of his self-generated power and might – not I, not Yajña, and not any of you who exist in bodies, be you gods, or be you sages.”

Then Unborn Brahmā left his seat, followed by the Ancestral Pitṛ and the Progenitors, to personally lead the fearful gods to Kailāsa, the greatest mountain and beloved home of the powerful Prabhu who is an enemy of cities.


Cause of Insult:

Dakṣa insulted Śiva because he was proud and paid more attention to other people’s flaws than his own. He exploited external social formalities as an excuse to express his foul consciousness.

Śiva’s behavior is irreproachable, but is on a deep, internal spiritual level. Externally he may seem shocking, rude, crude, etc (not combing his hair, not dressing properly (or at all), not bathing, etc). Similarly spiritualists may seem low-class to ordinary estimations – not being wealthy, not being concerned with cultural opulences, not observing formalities, etc. And those those without deep realization often use these apparent external flaws as excuses to justify their hatred of true spiritualists.

We should be wise and know that the only cause of hatred is ignorance, especially when hatred is directed towards sādhus.

Effect of Insult:

Even the gods were ruined by their offense to a sādhu. No one can survive.

Sādhu’s Limit of Tolerance:

A sādhu will tolerate insults to an extreme extent. Śiva never retaliated against Dakṣa & Bhṛgu’s insults. It was only when his beloved wife Satī was insulted to the extent of suicide that he would no longer remain patient and control his anger. Then he unleashed his fury and wrecked the offenders.

Even when the sādhu tolerates, the insulter is still doomed. Dakṣa was already doomed from chapter 1 of canto 4, the very beginning of the tale. It is actually fortuitous for us if the sādhu expresses some anger, so that we might have an opportunity to be woken up out of our self-absorbed grandeur in which every single thing we say or do is “flawless” and “bona-fide” and “correct” and “siddhāntic.”

Remedy for Insult:

The only recourse for offending a powerful spiritualist is to erase that offense, by behaving in such a way as to remove the displeasure and disturbance caused to the spiritualist. This is done primarily by apologizing.

Apologies are not automatic vindication tickets dispensed from a vending machine via electronic mail, please. Not that we submit some formality of apology and when the desired response isn’t forthcoming we use it as further cause to insult the spiritual person, please.

Brahmā stipulated that apologies must be pariśuddha-cetasācompletely pure and utterly sincere. Apologies must express an accurate understanding of the wrong one has done. If you step on my foot and then apologize for your odor, you haven’t really apologized for the thing that bothered me. I was not bothered by your odor, I was bothered by the pain you caused to my foot. The apology has to show that you really understand what you did wrong.

If you are apologizing to someone and they are not forgiving, the most likely problem is that your apology is not pariśuddha-cetasā, it is not clear and accurate and sincere. A clear, accurate, sincere apology will not fail to elicit forgiveness from a spiritualist.

Spiritualist’s Anger:

You should know that the anger of a spiritualist is not an error. You deserve it, and it is good for you. This was the first thing Brahmā told the devas in the section narrated above.

You should know that the spiritualist does not need to forgive you, you need to apologize correctly. You need to erase the displeasure you caused.

If you blame the spiritualist for getting offended, or for not forgiving your sloppy or perfunctory “apology” you are twice doomed, and it is surprising if you will even be allowed to keep your current physical body for very long.

Other options:

There is no other way to overcome an offense. Brahmā tells the devas that no one (and he really, really means no one, he even includes Yajña which means the incarnation of Viṣṇu who became the first Indra)… no one can overcome the power of the displeasure of an ātma-tantra – a self-realized spiritualist. Just as no blessing can compare to the pleasure and satisfaction of a spiritualist, no curse can compare to their displeasure and dissatisfaction.

We have to take this seriously.

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